Southgate set to stand strong in club v country battle
‘All the Premier League managers would do the same in my position’: Gareth Southgate insists he won’t budge in club vs country row over injuries as England boss promises to be ‘firm’ and pick his best players despite possible backlash
- Gareth Southgate has probably heard enough about potential player injuries
- The England boss had to field questions again about the use of his players
- Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez are two players who have picked up injuries
- England face Iceland in a Nations League dead rubber on Wednesday evening
As international football prepares to go into hibernation, Gareth Southgate knows the backlash from Premier League managers is about to begin.
The theme will be injuries, the load placed on players and whether a schedule of three games in a week — one of them a friendly and another Wednesday’s Nations League dead rubber against Iceland — were all really necessary.
But on Tuesday night, Southgate gave the impression of a man who has probably heard enough of it.
Gareth Southgate knows the backlash from league managers on injuries is about to begin
The England manager insisted he will continue to listen and to protect over-worked players when he can. But ultimately he will not back down. He has a tournament to win next summer and will continue to call on his best players as he bids to do so.
‘We are representing 50 million people, we are trying to prepare for the European Championship,’ said Southgate. ‘The players want to play. They want to achieve personal landmarks.
‘They are in a really difficult situation. They are under huge pressure from their clubs. That is going on in the background, for sure. That is the landscape whether it is made public or not.
‘I totally get it from a club perspective. It’s never been more competitive in our league and we have lots of huge personalities and strong people who are always looking for an edge. So we’ve got to manage that.
‘We will help but we’ve also got to be firm. Our competitors are making use of the games and building their teams, and we’ve got to do that.
‘We have challenges in our country and have done for years because of the strength of the league. It makes it more difficult for England at times, so we’ve got to make sure we don’t hinder our own chances.
‘We are competing against France, who pick all their players, Spain, who pick all their players, Portugal, who pick all their players. For example Paul Pogba has played this week, Ronaldo has played. He has 150 caps.’
With domestic and international football calendars being scrunched into a shorter season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, pressure is being felt across the board.
For example, the last week or so has seen Liverpool lose Joe Gomez and Andy Robertson to injury and Mo Salah tested positive for Covid after attending a wedding in Egypt. Meanwhile, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling has also picked up a calf strain.
Joe Gomez picked up a serious injury to his knee last week while training with England
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling also picked up a calf injury whilst on international duty
The fallout will doubtless lead to reaction from managers ahead of the Premier League’s return.
‘The reality is that to play 45 minutes of a game is no different from a training load,’ Southgate said. ‘But the perception is very different.
‘In terms of the club managers, there is a power game the whole time. Whether that’s phone calls, messages, press conferences. We know everything that goes on. I totally understand it.
‘Four years ago I was thinking, “I had better be careful”, but if we start going down that route we would have to pick just one from every club to make sure it’s balanced. That’s impossible. So I have to do what is right.
Southgate looks set to select a strong team despite the Iceland game being a dead rubber
‘We have given what ground we can but we have to prepare to win. All the league managers would do the same in my position.’
Southgate has come under some pressure after recent Nations League losses to Belgium and Denmark rendered Wednesday’s Iceland game rather irrelevant. Despite that, he will select a strong team.
On Tuesday night he argued his team’s displays in beating the Republic of Ireland in last week’s friendly and dominating Belgium for periods during defeat on Sunday had been ‘exciting to watch’.
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